Post-polio syndrome


Post-polio syndrome is a neurological disorder that affects people who have had polio. It is a condition in which poliovirus survivors experience a gradual and progressive worsening of their existing muscle weakness and fatigue more than 20 years after recovery from the initial polio infection. Symptoms may include muscle pain, joint pain, muscle weakness and fatigue, muscle shrinkage, and breathing and swallowing problems. Treatment usually includes physical and occupational therapy, braces and orthotics, medications, and energy conservation techniques.


The main symptom of Post-Polio Syndrome (PPS) is muscle weakness and decreased endurance, usually on the same side of the body as the original polio infection. Other symptoms include muscle and joint pain, fatigue, and breathing problems. Possible long-term effects of PPS can include difficulty walking, difficulty swallowing and speaking, and muscle atrophy. Cognitive changes or sleep problems can also be present.


The exact cause of Post-polio syndrome is unknown. However, the leading hypothesis is that it is due to the gradual deterioration of nerve cells in the brain and spine that are responsible for controlling muscle movement. Exposure to a virus, particularly the polio virus, as well as certain environmental factors such as chemical exposure, strenuous activity, and poor nutrition may contribute to the development of post-polio syndrome.

Risk factors

Some of the major risk factors for post-polio syndrome include the following:

  • Age: People who are older and those who had polio at a young age are more likely to develop post-polio syndrome.
  • Severity of initial polio infection: Those who had a more severe initial polio infection are more likely to develop post-polio syndrome.
  • Length of time since initial polio infection: Those who had polio many years ago are more likely to develop post-polio syndrome.
  • Prolonged immobility: Those who have had periods of prolonged immobility after the initial polio infection are more likely to develop post-polio syndrome.
  • Living environment: Those with limited access to services and resources may be more likely to develop post-polio syndrome.
  • Stress: Those who are more stressed are more likely to develop post-polio syndrome.
  • Nutrition: Poor nutrition may increase the risk of post-polio syndrome.


Post-polio syndrome is typically diagnosed through a combination of electrodiagnostic tests, physical exams, electromyography, imaging tests, and your medical history. Your doctor will first review your polio history and ask you about any new symptoms you may be experiencing. They will check your muscle strength, reflexes, and coordination, as well as take a look at your medical history. They may also conduct tests such as electromyography (EMG) or nerve conduction studies. Imaging tests such as x-rays, CT scans, and MRIs can also be used to help detect any structural changes in your muscles or joints. Your doctor may also order blood tests or other laboratory tests to rule out any other conditions.


Post-Polio Syndrome is a condition that affects individuals who have previously had polio and can develop as long as 40 years after the initial infection. The condition involves a wide range of symptoms that can range from mild to severe, often leading to a decline in physical and mental health. There are four main subtypes of Post-Polio Syndrome.

The first subtype is Late Onset Polio, which causes new symptoms to emerge years after the initial infection. Symptoms of Late Onset Polio include muscle weakness and atrophy, fatigue, breathing and swallowing problems, pain, weakness in the extremities, and joint pain.

The second subtype is Post-Polio Syndrome Exacerbation, which results in a sudden worsening of symptoms. Symptoms during exacerbation can range from mild to severe and include a decrease in muscle strength, increased fatigue, and a decline in physical functioning. This type of exacerbation can be triggered by stress, infections, or physical exertion and can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks.

The third subtype is Post-Polio Malaise, which is characterized by prolonged periods of decreased physical functioning and fatigue. The condition can be triggered by physical exertion, cold temperatures, and emotional distress and can last for weeks or even months.

The fourth subtype is Post-Polio Progressive Muscular Atrophy, which is marked by a gradual weakening of muscles and progressive decreases in strength and function. Symptoms of Progressive Muscular Atrophy include increasing muscle weakness, fatigue, and muscle loss.

Post-Polio Syndrome can have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life and can be a long-term condition. Treatment options for Post-Polio Syndrome include physical and occupational therapy, medications, and lifestyle modifications to help reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.


The treatment options for Post-polio syndrome vary depending on the individual, but can include:

  1. Physical therapy: Through physical therapy techniques such as stretching, exercise, massage, and electrical stimulation, physical therapists can help alleviate the pain and discomfort of Post-polio syndrome and help improve posture and movement.
  2. Orthotics: Orthotics, such as braces, can help support weakened muscles, helping to improve stability and balance.
  3. Pain management strategies: Pain management strategies can include medications, such as muscle relaxants, opioids, or anticonvulsants, as well as alternative therapies such as acupuncture and relaxation techniques.
  4. Assistive devices: Assitive devices, such as canes, walkers, or wheelchairs can help individuals cope with the challenges of Post-polio syndrome and help them maintain their mobility.
  5. Nutritional counseling: Since Post-polio syndrome can affect an individual’s energy levels, nutritional counseling can help individuals with Post-polio syndrome maintain a healthy diet and obtain the nutrients needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
  6. Cognitive behavioral therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy can help an individual cope with the changes in their life caused by Post-polio syndrome and can help individuals develop strategies to cope with their symptoms.


The best way to reduce the risk of Post-polio syndrome is to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle. This includes regular exercise, a nutritious diet, getting enough rest and relaxation, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. It is also important to manage existing medical conditions related to polio. Additionally, an individual should be mindful of overworking their muscles and joints that have previously been affected by polio, and should talk to their doctor about any changes in their symptoms. Finally, it is important to stay connected with a healthcare provider who can provide support and help manage any changes in symptoms.

Gender differences?

Yes, there are gender-specific differences in the presentation and management of Post-polio syndrome. Studies have shown that the prevalence of fatigue is significantly higher in women than in men with Post-Polio syndrome. Women are also more likely to experience muscle pain, joint pain, and respiratory difficulties than men. Women tend to have higher levels of psychological distress and increased disability resulting from Post-Polio syndrome. Women require longer periods of rest and are more prone to exhaustion than men. Studies have also found that women have poorer sleep quality than men and are more likely to experience insomnia. Women may need more control of post-polio symptoms and should be provided with specialized care and more support for daily activities. Women may have a greater need for physical, occupational, and speech therapy. In addition, women may need more medical guidance and support and should be closely monitored for neurological changes, muscle wastage, and fatigue.


Nutrition plays an important role in the management of post-polio syndrome. Good nutrition is essential for muscle strength, energy, and recovery. Adequate calories and essential nutrients, such as protein, can help the body maintain muscle mass and regain lost muscle strength. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and fruits while limiting processed carbohydrates and saturated fats is recommended. Vitamins, minerals, and supplements may be recommended by a healthcare professional to help meet the body’s needs. Additionally, drinking plenty of water is important to keep the body hydrated and to help flush out toxins. Finally, people with post-polio syndrome need to be mindful of eating regularly throughout the day to fuel their body and maintain energy levels.

Physical Activity

Physical activity is highly recommended for those with Post-Polio Syndrome as it can help improve their overall function. Regular exercise can help increase muscle strength, improve balance and coordination, improve range of motion and decrease the risk of falls. Additionally, physical activity can increase energy and help with fatigue, muscle cramping and joint pain. It is important that those with post-polio syndrome start with a program that is tailored to their individual needs and abilities. Exercise should include stretching, low-impact activities and strength training. It is also important to include periods of rest and not to overdo physical activity.

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